Like many of you, I’m still reeling from the results of Tuesday’s election. I cry, I go to work, I read reports of violence and hatred, I binge-eat, I cry some more, I have long conversations with my spouse and my friends about what happens now, I cry again, I sleep fitfully. Repeat.
The nation is broken right now. And many of us are concerned. Finding comfort can be challenging, but we still have music, and music is comfort to me. When my grandmother passed away almost two years ago, Sleater-Kinney helped guide me through the darkness. “No Cities to Love” had come out just weeks before, and the urgency and power of that album allowed me to feel in a way that moved me forward instead of back. I listened to little else. Music can heal. It can speak for you when you feel you have no voice.
And that’s how protest rock really got its start. We all know the songs that were written in response to the Vietnam War. The Dylan, the Seeger, the CCR. I had a math teacher in junior high who would play protest rock — loudly — while we took our exams. I can’t say I approved of this distraction during tests, but that music stuck with me. Protest rock bloomed again during the Bush wars, but it wasn’t necessarily classified as protest rock. It was punk rock, it was alternative rock, it was the dissatisfaction of the country coming out in song. There’s been a steady stream of songs about fighting for human and civil rights, about finding love for your fellow man. And now there’s so much that it’s hard to pick just a few protest songs to really express the fears and concerns of half the nation. But I’m pulling out some of my favorites for this Friday Five (which is really more like a Friday Ten+). Some songs are political, some are about finding hope and love in times of turmoil. But they all help express the emotions that have been coursing through me since Tuesday night.
1. P!nk – “Dear Mr. President”
Written in response to the Bush years, this song gives voice to questions so many people had. It always makes me cry, but it felt incredibly profound to me after Tuesday, because these questions will be relevant once more.
2. Sleater-Kinney – “Combat Rock”
Another song written during the Bush years, it addresses blind patriotism, and asks why questioning the way things are run is seen as un-American.
3. Ani DiFranco – “Tis of Thee”
A good deal of Ani’s songs are political, but this one really hits home right now.
4. Bikini Kill – “Rebel Girl”
The battle cry of all feminist women out there. Kathleen Hanna sang this last night with The Julie Ruin in NYC. The crowd went crazy, and so needed it.
5. The Gossip – “Standing in the Way of Control”
Anger over the country’s policies on same-sex marriage, written long before the Supreme Court decision. But now there’s a renewed fear that these rights will be taken away again.
6. Buffy Sainte-Marie – “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”
Given all that’s going on with the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the treaties that are being and will continue to be broken, this song is so relevant right now. I can only imagine that it will get worse under the new regime.
7. Sarah Harmer (via The Kennedy Suite) – “White Man in Decline”
Written for the Cowboy Junkies’ Kennedy assassination anniversary project, the song seems so relevant again with the uprising of the KKK and their endorsement and celebration of Trump.
8. Jenny Lewis & the Watson Twins – “Rise Up With Fists”
When people tell you that the world should stay how it is (or go back to the way it was in the 40s and 50s), rise up with fists.
9. Run The Jewels – “2100”
RTJ released this track early for all those who are scared or hurt or wanting more right now.
10. Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”
If this isn’t the most representative song about overcoming societal obstacles right now (especially for the African-American community), then I don’t know what is.
Bonus 1: Hedwig & the Angry Inch – “Midnight Radio”
Bonus 2: Stars – “Hold On When You Get Love”